Fate again took a strange twist and instead of Jerry's leaving on Friday, the flights were overbooked. A good number of people couldn't get out of El Toro so there was a delay of another week. Then another glitch, the people on the manifest weren't booked for the Thursday flight but this wasn't discovered until the flights were all loaded.
Jerry got to see Vickie each day and most importantly, each night he got to make love with her and spend precious moments holding the one he loved so much. Each night was special and like living in a fantasy world for all the splendor that they felt. They made each moment count. Each day she had to work and Jerry got an inexpensive solitaire engagement ring for Vickie at the Exchange. His funds were nearly gone and he had to be careful how much he spent on the ring. It cost two hundred and forty seven dollars and was pretty but the diamond was like Vickie--small.
The guys on the flight with Jerry were some of the ones he had been in class with and were anxious to be off, but Jerry who had once been gung-ho to go to Viet Nam now only looked at it as another chance to be with Vickie. Vickie had attempted to get orders to South East Asia but was denied. Fate took yet another strange twist. Jerry's group had been booked on a flight the next week from Travis Air Force Base at Oakland on Monday, and they were given travel money and lodging for the flight to Oakland International Airport. So everyone, including Vickie, boarded the flight on PSA Airlines to Oakland. Jerry and Vickie were able to get a seat together because one older man on the flight out of Lindburg Field in San Diego gave up his seat in the business section and let Jerry and Vickie sit together. The man was a World War Two veteran and a Marine.
He was with one of the industries in San Diego and one of the chief executives of that firm. He also bought drinks for them and the rest of the corpsmen on the flight because a Navy Corpsman had saved his life while he was on Tarawa. "What a sweet man." Vickie said. I agreed.
All went well and Jerry and Vickie enjoyed themselves as though there was no tomorrow. One of the Corpsmen on the flight with Jerry gave up his space in the room so that Jerry and Vickie could spend their time together without having to rent a room on the town. Vickie kissed and hugged him. Jerry didn't get jealous either. The corpsman had told her the bed was too short for him and uncomfortable. He slept on the floor in the next room. Jerry gave him the mattress because he and Vickie only needed one bed. The other corpsman on the flight over later told Jerry that he was a lucky guy and he envied Jerry. What could Jerry say, with a lump in his throat the size of a boulder, except "your right."
During the long weekend they went to the famous Fisherman.s Warf on Sunday. During the afternoon while they were having lunch at Demaggios, Jerry was talking with Vickie and informed her rather nervously "I know I should do it now but many things happen. When I return from Nam I have an Important Proposal to make to you and I want you to think about it real serious." Vickie without waiting burst out, in tears and shouted loudly, "I know what the proposal is. I don't have to think about it. I will marry you no matter what Daddy, Mama, or any of my brothers say, and you've made me the happiest girl in the world." With that she literally jumped into my lap, grabbed my neck, in front of everyone in the restaurant and kissed me as never before. I couldn't breath because of her kisses and squeezing my neck so hard that she cut off circulation to my head. The whole crowd in the restaurant cheered. Someone told the manager who came over and told us that the days fare was on him. Vickie also hugged him. I didn't get jealous that time either. I didn't know it but her demonstration could be heard outside the restaurant.
I then reached into my pocket and pulled out a small box. Vickie was still in my lap. "I thought that I would get you a bigger one than this but I couldn't afford one now. I would like you to wear this Vickie, If you would that is, please." I then opened the box and took out the small diamond, solitaire engagement ring. I placed it on her finger and Said, "Well, that makes it official doesn't it?" She didn't answer but tears formed in her clear blue eyes and her face flushed again. All that she was capable of doing was to put her arms around my neck, hold and kiss me.
After that not much was said for the rest of the day. The two even found several secret locations and again made mad passionate love. Jerry's plane left the next morning so Vickie had to return that night. When they went to the airport at the gate to the plane they embraced again and wept. She handed him three letters to read on the plane and he handed her two very lengthy letters to read after she'd returned to San Diego.
As Vickie was walking out to the plane to board, Jerry stood staring out the plate glass window looking at the small form of the only woman he'd ever really known well enough to be in love with. She turned several times to see if he was still there and confirmed that he was. She would wave at him and he would return the gesture woodenly as he felt his heart sink into his stomach, if that were possible. Jerry had said good by to several people in the past but never to anyone who had reached out to him and really "grabbed" him the way that Vickie had. Vickie had not only taken hold of his heart, she had also taken possession of his mind. Jerry felt isolated as his lover boarded the plane. A part of him was departing and he could do nothing to stop her but watch and feel a deep anguish in his very soul. "At least I have her letters and her picture to hold on to." He thought to himself.
After Jerry arrived at Okinawa to the US Marine Core Facility Camp Hanson, he was issued jungle utilities and boots. The utilities had small round holes in the chest area and the jungle boots weren't new either. This was a fine way to begin a deployment to go into combat with defective equipment he was thinking. Of course he was really thinking about Vicki. In fact his whole mind set and concentration, his mind talk, his consciousness surrounded her. She had become the whole of his being. Especially after reading the letters from her on the plane in flight, after arriving at Camp Hanson at least three times per day he reread Vickie's letters.
Jerry managed to manipulate an autovon call to 32nd Street Naval Base and get Vickie on the phone. It was very difficult to keep his composure when she answered. Vickie didn't keep her composure; in fact she broke as soon as she heard his voice. Staff Sergeant Taylor got on the line with him and teasingly told him not to get laid by the girls in Okinawa. Although Jerry didn't think it too humorous, but he laughed anyway and said "I wish you were here with me Staff Sergeant instead of the Okinawan girls." Jerry couldn't see the reaction that Staff Sergeant Taylor was having on the other end of the line.
The Staff Sergeant laughed, being a good sport, but never repeated Jerry's remarks to Vickie and then said privately, in a subdued voice, to Jerry that she wished that She were there with him also. The Staff Sergeant informed Jerry that she would personally look after Vickie while Jerry was gone. Jerry thanked her profusely knowing that the Staff Sergeant knew how things would be for him and her. The Staff Sergeant had, herself, been overseas and knew the Navy's system of mail, the phones and so on. She told Jerry that she would help explain to Vickie the situation. She would be Vickie's shoulder to cry on while her beloved "sailor boy," was over eight thousand miles from his sweetheart in San Diego.
Jerry's next duty station was aboard the U.S.S. Iwa Jima LPH1. Shortly after going on board and checking in with 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines an Infantry unit who made landings along the South Vietnamese Coast, one day he was summonsed along with two other corpsmen to the marine commander's state room. As he reported in with the other corpsmen the Colonial (Colonial Reischman) greeted them as a matter of protocol. "Come in gents." The Colonial stated. They entered and stood at attention.
"Gents you've been requested (strange choice of words) to come here for an interview with someone who feels you could be an effective part of his team, and while I agree that you could you are in no way obligated to do so. If you decline his offer there will be no hard feelings toward you by Lieutenant O'Malley or by me. In fact I hope you won't take the offer because I need men of your character and quality. Not too many ever receive an invitation like this and not too many are ever chosen to make this offer to. But if you take them up on it good luck and God's speed to you. If you decide after you have been there a while that it isn't for you, then I'll welcome you back with open arms. Is that clear Docs?" They all responded with "Aye, Aye Sir."
Lieutenant O'Malley, USN was a shorter man than the Colonial and was very muscular and had bristling arms, which were scarred in several places. He didn't wear the Marine jungle utilities. Instead he wore a dark green tiger stripe uniform, a strange silver insignia of an eagle with a three pronged fork over the left pocket of his blouse, a marine type cap which was starched stiff and had the USN Officer's insignia. He had dark yet bright keen eyes, which seemed to pierce through one's very being. He made an imposing figure for his height and walked right up to us with our service record in hand starting at the left of all of us due to the limited space in the colonial's state room. He spoke in a very quiet, icy; demeanor more than did the Marine Colonial and used short choppy remarks.
"Petty Officer Thomas Moore, Hospital Corpsman Third Class. Do you know what this is about?"
"No sir!" Petty Officer Moore exclaimed. "Well Petty Officer Moore you weren't supposed to know until I tell you." Jerry was next. "Petty Officer Third Jerry Simms he said looking from under the brim of his cover, "Do you?"
"No sir!" Jerry also exclaimed.
"And you Petty Officer Second Class William Phillips?"
"No sir!" Phillips responded.
"Well it's nice to see that the Marine Corps holds with the proud tradition of keeping somethings a secret at least." The Lieutenant dryly remarked without looking back at the Colonial. "Gentlemen and petty officers I am Lt O'Malley the meanest and fiercest son of a bitch in this state room, on this pig boat called a ship, and in the entire U.S. Navy. I am the leader of Charlie Platoon, Seal Team two on this ship and I need fresh bodies, mainly Hospital Corpsmen, to fight the goddamned Gooks from the Mekong Delta to mountains of North Viet Nam and even to Fucking Ho Chi Mihn's Imperial Palace in Hanoi.
We don't get too many men who can measure up to our standards. It used to be before the Navy got too pansy assed, that only three out of every hundred made it to our ranks. Now that the Navy has gotten soft only 30 of every hundred makes it. You are all in the latter class. If you happen to try to accept my offer and you prove yourself you just might be one of the three out of every hundred. But I don't hold out too much hope for any of you.
You Simms, can you run, shoot, kill, and keep up with real men?" The LT. asked.
Jerry responded "Sir, I can outrun your men any day. I ran cross-country in high school for three years. I can track a deer in the woods after he's bleed dry. I grew up in the woods hunting and fishing. Is that all you have sir?" Lt. O'Malley was taken back by the skinny tall Arkansas boy but didn't show it. "Simms I don't think you could track a muddy dog across a dry floor, and I don't think you've got the guts to keep up with my men. Just because you can outrun a bunch of Jarhead Grunts doesn't mean you can do shit. Is that clear Simms?"
"Yes sir!" Simms responded. Lt. O'Malley was secretly impressed with Jerry.
"Petty Officer Phillips, do you have the guts to try to be on my team?"
"No sir. I don't want to be on your team or with you Seals sir." Lt. O'Malley's eyes flared and he flatly stated in a glueteral tone "then get the fuck out of my space."
"Excuse me Lt O'Malley but this is my space and I'll tell you when you can leave. The Colonial burst out. "Is that clear to you sir?"
"Excuse me Colonial I forgot where I was Sir." The LT responded. "Accepted and duly noted." The Colonial responded.
The Lieutenant then went to HM3 Moore walking up to him again in his quiet tone, which would cause icicles to form, asked "Petty Officer Moore, I have looked in your service record and I am only marginally impressed. Is there any reason that I should choose you over Phillips or this skinny shit from the backwoods of Arkansas?"
"No sir!" was the quick curt response from Moore. "Do you think you could hack the kind of crap we hand out and come back for more?"
"Yes sir!" responded Moore who this time literally shouted and took the Lt. aback.
Again in his icy demeanor the Lt. began "Gentlemen, don't be fooled. Think this over for 24 hours and let me know tomorrow. I do not want to underestimate to you the danger of what you'll be getting into." He now started in a softer yet still icy demeanor. "You'll be refitted to the uniform which I wear, you will be given different equipment."
"Everything about you will have to change. The last of which will be your personality that will have to become more aggressive than you are now. You will not ever be the same again because you will be the Navy's finest. Unlike those shit heads that go down and sink a perfectly good ship, you know the type, we call them "Bubbleheads" Not only that you will have to become something you were not trained to be. You gentlemen just learned to heal people and save their lives. These won't be Marines or Sailors you'll be facing and you will have to learn to kill. The North Vietnamese Army is a group of trained killers and don't believe in saving the "Baksee" or docs. Can you learn to do this to save your fellow Seal brothers?"
Both Moore and Simms agreed that they could, and that they didn't have to think it over. Although neither had any idea what they had just committed themselves too.
"Very well Gentlemen," the LT continued, "get your shit and come back here."
Upon their return to the Colonial's state room the Colonial again addressed them "Remember Docs," Colonial Reischman began, "if you don't like this kind of bull shit that the Seals have to offer you can return to me anytime without any prejudice of any sort." He continued, "Not everyone is built to handle this kind of thing and not everyone is able to keep up with it. If you discover you can't let the LT. know and he'll return you without any problem. I say again without any problem. Right Lieutenant O'Malley?"
"Right Colonial Reischman." The LT. responded. "If you can't hack it I need to know early, but at least wait until you have had at least one mission gents is all I ask. Fair enough?"
"Yes sir!" They both responded in unisance. Neither Moore or Simms knew it but they were both about to become very close friends even though neither had ever before met each other. Better than that they would become brothers.
The team members believed, that the two corpsmen would be capable of functioning in the field with the team on certain operations if the two were to stay with the medical end alone. However, additional training was given to both Simms and to Moore. Also the Lieutenant had both Moore and Simms scheduled for Basic Underwater Demolition Team training at Coronodo Island to insure the two fledglings (otherwise known as FNG'S that stands for fucking new guys) didn't blow themselves and the rest of the teams up. This was slotted for early January through the fourth week in March of 1969.
Daily the rigorous physical training was done for four hours each morning. One thing about the team was their excellent gym equipment that they had. Each day after chow at 0500 they commenced and didn't finish until sometimes after 1100. This was in part due to the additional one to one training that the team members were giving the two "FNG'S" as they were called. This demanding training continued for over one month. The Lieutenant would train with them and would show various techniques of how to use hand to hand techniques, never the less, all were intended for one and only one purpose. They trained in use of the knife in hand to hand combat if needed.
One of the team members, a White Mountain Apache from Arizona, was Jerry's trainer. Jerry couldn't pronounce his name but the English equivalent was "He Who Strikes Terror in the Heart of His Enemies." It must be true because he struck terror in Jerry's heart without being an enemy. Jerry didn't know it but the Apache had seen in Jerry's eyes something that the others missed, and refused to train Moore, as he believed Moore to be weak and without resolve. Jerry had grown up in a settlement with Cherokees and some Chocktaws but none were like this man, if he really was a man. Just because he walked like one and because he looked like one didn't mean he really was a man. But his nickname was Geronimo and it fit him. He was also a Gunners Mate First Class and had a knowledge of many small arms as well as "big guns" as they were called. He taught Jerry many techniques to use and to distract others when he was in the presence of the enemy. This also included many evasion and concealment maneuvers.
Afternoons were spent teaching certain fundamental training on such things as placing a nine man team for the most efficient use of manpower, employing the knowledge of at least two other team members in case one or both are taken out. The maximum effective range of certain weapons, their effective kill zones, and the maximum rounds per minute that each one can produce. Also such things as infilade, or saturation firing in an area with small arms. Techniques kept secret as to how a small group can create the most havoc and extract victory from the larger forces, evasion, escape, taking out guards and other "really fun stuff."
One of the team members was one EN2 Forebears, who was from the Pineridge Reservation in South Dakota. Joe, his nick name, was a pathfinder for the group and taught such things as motor maintenance for the outboards, battery maintenance for the marine batteries used with the motors and care of the inflatable boats, also known as Zodiacs, and carbon dioxide cylinder replacement after each use. Joe also taught how to pathfinder, how to trail and locate enemy placements in the bush. Camouflage and concealment of equipment and personnel.
Another of the team members was an MM1 Mendoza who was a master diver and trained the two FNG's (Fucking New Guys) as he called them how to dive mostly at night. The way they did it was the two would be placed in the inflatables with Mendoza and BT2 Pierce, the other master diver of the team, and at night teach the two how to dive and all that other fun stuff at night. Of course most of what MM1 Mendoza was doing was an old and very effective technique of pure harassment of the two "FNG's."
The main purpose was to see just how much the two could take in a tight situation. After the two were in the water they would swim along with Mendoza for as many miles as Mendoza deemed necessary which was usually five to six, sometimes less but mostly more. This all accomplished with a wet suit, mask and snorkel and flippers, which was at first to get the two used to top water submerging. Later would come the tanks, weight belts and all the other gear. The main reason for this type of rigorous training was that the two hadn't the benefit of formal training at the main facility in either Virginia or California so they had to either "sink or swim" to coin the phrase.